By Roslyn Cook
As speculation mounts as to whether President Obama will visit Hiroshima in May, 83 countries are assembling in Geneva for the next round of talks aimed at achieving a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. This Open Ended Working Group was proposed in UN resolutions last year and is supported by the 127 countries who have signed the Humanitarian Pledge to find a way to outlaw these weapons and eliminate them from the world.
Till now the countries with nuclear weapons claim they want such a world but refuse to take part in the forum in Geneva where their veto will not work. Instead they plan to spend trillions of dollars on a new generation of nuclear weapons that will further accelerate a new arms race in direct contravention of the bargain struck in the Non Proliferation Treaty Article 6 : to disarm in good faith at an early date, which was signed in return for other countries not seeking to acquire such weapons themselves.
I was proud to attend the UN talks in Geneva on Monday together with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) team. The shameful and dangerous complacency of the UK, US et al was made deeply apparent by their absence.
This is the letter I recently wrote to President Obama:
Dear President Obama
Thank you for your encouragement to youth in the UK last week never to give up on a task that you are deeply committed to. Your speech in 2009 in Prague inspired the world as it seemed that you would take action to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons. Sadly it seems your rhetoric is hollow and under your watch spending on nuclear warheads has risen higher than under any other American president.
While two thirds of the world’s countries have pledged to find a way forwards to prohibit and eliminate all nuclear weapons, all the states who possess these weapons, including the US, are boycotting talks for multilateral disarmament in Geneva. Not only this, but you are planning to modernise your nuclear arsenals making it all the more likely they will be used, and causing further risk to the survival of us all.
In anticipation of your visit to Hiroshima in May I would urge you to consider your legacy and not to arrive empty handed. Your announcement that you intend to honour the legal obligation, under Article 6 of the NPT, to negotiate in good faith at an early date an end to the nuclear arms race would be an historic opportunity to transform the fate of humanity. You could assure the world that you will urge all other nuclear weapon states to join you as you agree to participate in the Open Ended Working Group in Geneva to establish a treaty that would abolish all nuclear weapons.
As acknowledged by the International Red Cross in its resolution of 2011, the only way to ensure these weapons are never again used is to prohibit and eliminate them. There can be no rescue operation in the event such weapons are detonated and the risk of accidents is too high to delay any longer taking the urgent action required.
The window of opportunity is open for you to step up to honour your own words, for the sake of humanity I implore you to do so when you visit Hiroshima in May.
“Take three gifts to the world on your journey: your courage,
your humanity, and a proposal to end the insanity.”